Sunday, 28 March 2010


"The Tacuarí, the new Tango space that manage Ruth and Andreas, dear tango “Maestros”in San Telmo".

When friends at El Sol de San Telmo suggested the Tacuari milonga, there was a note of warmth in their voices, rather as there is in the above translated review. This was destined to be not the normal milonga.

We set off across Avendia San Juan into the southern outreaches of San Telmo. Tacuari runs out sweeping towards La Boca, but stalling at Avendia Martin Garcia several blocks before the rail tracks that separate where it is just possible to go, from where further exploration would be folly.

Our journey from Chacabuco is a short one, a matter of minutes by foot. The Tacuari springs up suddenly from nowhere, sandwiched between unidentifiable buildings. The doors are propped open with chocks and a security light beams across the pavement on our arrival. It is after 11 pm and the milonga is already busy, with no seats and certainly no tables. Ordinarily, this would have been an impediment to a successful evening of dancing, but somehow the absence of space does not seem to matter. Here is light, laughter, fun and superb dancers. As I pass the open bar to see a body artist finishing a masterpiece. She is tall, with long legs that bear his work, fascinating painting that shimmers in the milonga lights. The contra-boule is a young dancer whose upper torso is fully painted. They smile, their eyes full of excitement and their bodies ready to dance to show of his work.

Clutching out bottles of sparkling water, our small group stands in a space just off the milonga floor. We note the standard of dancers to be high. There are some talented young people here, as you would expect from the reviews of this milonga. But up to this point, I had not read the reviews, and so my expectation is eclipsed. It is at that moment that I see a face. He is tall and very slim, with distinctive penetrating eyes. This is an unmistakable face that I have seen before, with whom I have danced, and with whom I have shared my home. In September 2009 Andreas and Ruth, his partner in life and dance, as the guests of Miriam y Dante, danced at their milonga, taught classes and overnighted with Nefra and me after late night dancing in my studio.

We recognise, greet and embrace. Andreas rushes off to find Ruth. Chairs and tables are precured and placed to the edge of the milonga floor. The smart dancers look on as these strangers are fated. For this evening I will have no difficulty in attracting both dances and knowing looks from my companions who ask if I know everyone in this city.

As the novelty of celebrity subsides, I become aware of the arrival of the real celebrity. Osvaldo and his wife Coca are being brought through to their special table. Osvaldo is one of the last old milongueros, the dancers who carried the skills of tango from the 1950's through the hostile years when successive governments and tango were unfriendly bedfellows. Of course he is old, but age does not register on his youthful, exuberant face. He and Coca are to exhibit this evening, and ours is to be the privilege of seeing one of the last of his race. From my guest vantage point I am looking directly across towards him as he catches my eye. We last met through Oscar Casas, my first dance master. At his request I cross the floor to greet and hug. I remind him of our last encounter and we share our mutual admiration for our benefactor Oscar. And then the moment is cut short; the time to dance has arrived. The little orchestra strikes up, Osvaldo loses his jacket and takes Coca in his arms. They dance in a way that only genuine milongueros can dance, with skill, humour to the exclusion of all around them. The audience is hushed.Osvaldo spans the generations here and is taken to their heart. He is the heart of tango and it still beats fast.

This is a moment of great joy, a coming together of tango past and future. Also a coming together of unexpected friends: Andreas, Ruth, Osvaldo, Coca. I feel that the city has held out a hand. Later,over a last cup of tea at the tango house, we speak about the events of the night. And I reflect on the privilege of the moment and bask in reflected celebrity.